Philippe Klaus: Nicole, you do a lot of character voices for cartoons. How does that compare to being a 3D live ‘human’ in the play Flame Peas?
Nicole Shostak: Griffin, our director, describes the play Flame Peas like a live action Simpsons episode and it definitely has that energy to it! Studio recording for animation is super physical so it’s not all that different in that domain. Valencia (my character) has a lot of hilarious punchlines in the play sound like they are straight out of an animation geared for adults. What’s more exciting in the show, is that we have each other and the audience to play off. The audience changes from night to night and playing with their energy is very fun. You don’t get that audience buzz in animation recordings. You can make the sound engineer laugh, and then you know you’re on the money.
Flame Peas sounds more like a recipe than a show. If you had to make a recipe by that name, what would you put in?
Peas, garlic, onion, pesto. Sautee peas for 2 mins in saucepan, then slide peas and onion individually onto a baby wooden skewer. Slowly toast skewer over an open fire (like a marshmallow) until lightly browned. Conveniently there is an open fireplace of sorts at the Old Fitz in the front bar.
Any favourite moments in the show?
The epic Flame Peas (Flame Trees) extravaganza song is a highlight because its so highly improvised and feels fresh every night. I love counting real money on stage; there is such gravity to that action, and I can feel the audience watching me meticulously.
How much does the show change from night to night?
The show really is like a 4 hander! The audience’s presence and responsiveness changes the pace and energy of the show. With a responsive audience, it is like a stand up comedy act with the audience laughing every three or four lines. With a pensive audience, it plays energy can become darker, more absurd, and therefore for us, it has a Pinteresque feel. It is also interesting to see the varying responses from younger and older demographics.
You did some training in Russia. Do we see that influence here in Flame Peas?
Griffin and I both spent time in Russia during WAAPA, so there is definitely a Russian influence in our theatre making. The show is like a series of etudes (studies) in various combinations of the three characters. We talked a lot about keeping the energy light, like bubbly champagne, regardless of the darker reality of these characters. There is a lightness and plasticity in performance we witnessed from Russian actors, so in our shows development, starting with lightness lead us into playfulness and then we could explore a wider range of sensibilities for our characters. We also discussed some secret quotes from Stanislavski’s diary. Finally, there many Chekhovian references in our play, especially from The Seagull.
Nicole Shostak: Philippe, what is a Flame Pea?
Philippe Klaus: It’s a Western Australian flower, and in its plural form, flame peas, it’s also a pun on Flame Trees by Cold Chisel. It’s a very apt title for the show. If you see it you’ll think “that’s so dumb AND smart.”
You’ve worked with some Australian icons like Toni Collette and John Jarratt ; what’s it like reuniting with your WAAPA classmates?
A lot less intimidating. But they were both very nice to me and people are just people no matter how iconic they are. As for going back to WAAPA classmates, it was great because we have a shorthand and don’t offend each other easily.
How has being a writer on Flame Peas changed your perspective on playwrights?
It made me think about how hard writing for other people must be. It’s one thing to write for yourself or for actors you know well but handing it over to a group of strangers who can interpret it any way they like…that’s brave. Playwrights must feel like they’re always putting their babies up for adoption.
What is your character’s dream job? What is your dream job? Are they similar?
My character aspires to being a highbrow composer and he’s deeply narcissistic. I can say that without judgment because I relate to that kind of vanity. My own dreams aren’t very concrete. I want to tell good stories, but I don’t mind what they’re about or what medium it is. I’m not much of a planner.
You play the piano upside down in the show. How does that differ to playing the piano the right side up?
Playing upside down is just like playing the right way up except you can’t see the keys and your range is a little limited. And all the blood rushes to your head. It’s more of a ‘sometime’ activity.
Nicole Shostak and Philippe Klaus are writers and performers for Flame Peas .
Dates: 4 – 15 August, 2015
Venue: The Old Fitz Theatre